As we begin to see more things in life, we can begin to think in completely new ways.
If we can’t “see” something in your mind’s eye, does it even exist? It’s outside our realm of consciousness. That which is outside our consciousness goes unnoticed and doesn’t enter our thoughts or life.
Traveling helps open our ways of thinking because it gives us new things to see. When you travel, your eyes can be opened to many things you didn’t realize existed before, things you could not experience any other way.
I spent a good part of my childhood in eastern Asia and the Mediterranean, where I learned how different some cultures are from our own. Back in the 1960s I would have never been exposed to foods like boiled octopus and dried squid if I had not lived in Japan. Because I grew up with some very exotic foods, I acquired a taste for dishes that make some Americans squeamish. Having these foods available made them a part of my life.
Then there were the languages. I’ll never forget the first time I was at the Paris airport. After living in the Pacific area for nearly nine years, I was suddenly immersed in a world where—although people looked like me and not like Asians—they didn’t speak English. I was used to hearing languages such as Japanese, Korean and Chinese, but hearing a foreign language from Caucasians for the first time was disorienting!
While living in the Mediterranean area for three years, I learned to enjoy hearing Italian, French, Spanish, and North African Arabic. And I got to experience even more new foods. I do love food from the Mediterranean countries!
After being exposed to so much as a child, I continue to have a great deal of appreciation and respect for people from all around the world. Oh, and I continue to love a variety of foods as well!
When we see something we have not seen before, what happens? Well, one option is to allow the thought to pass, which is often what we choose to do. Or we might try to capture the thought, perhaps by writing it down. As the old saying goes, “a short pencil is better than a long memory.”
Yet there’s a third option, when what we see is of sufficient interest: we can ruminate on it. Most often, when we do this, we do two things: We deepen the thought, so it influences other thoughts; and we expand the thought, which allows us to see even more. Philosopher L. Mestrius Plutarchus once said, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
Let’s look at an example of this. You’re walking down the road and meet a homeless man. Your first thought may be that he’s a drunkard who deserves to be on the street. But then you notice a tattoo on his arm that shows he’s a veteran of war.
Now that you’ve seen a glimpse of this man’s life in that tattoo, you consider that maybe his situation is not as cut-and-dried as you thought. When you talk to him, you discover that war left him with severe PTSD, which makes getting a job difficult.
Now you’re thinking about all the other homeless people on the streets who might be suffering from a similar mental illness. What you saw in that tattoo led you to think deeply, to make meaning of what you saw, and to apply those thoughts to other situations. This changed the course of your other assumptions.
Perhaps, as a result, you began volunteering at a homeless shelter and making friends with the people there. And the people you meet there change your worldview—and therefore your life.
Something to think about for sure. What are some other things you may think about deeply and take a different perspective on?
More next week….
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